Not quite as well-known is his drug-experimentation, fascination with parapsychology and interest in numerous women.
It’s almost a clich√© that psychology talks will start with a quote from James. Largely because his work, most notably the book The Principles of Psychology, touched upon almost every area now part of mainstream cognitive science.
His interests were truly eclectic, however, and his writing explores a diverse range of thoughts and experiences.
“There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.”
James also experienced terrible depressions and suicidal thoughts throughout his life, giving him first hand experience of a mind gone awry.
Perhaps a combination of natural curiosity and an interest in altered states led James to radical and still-influential theories of mental life.
A recent review from The New York Times summed it up like so:
It is hard to maintain the illusion of the disembodied philosopher in the face of this larger-than-life and fascinatingly cracked personality, who pragmatically turned the very fissures of his soul into metaphysical positions.
There’s more in the reviews, and the book itself, William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism (ISBN 0618433252), has recently hit the shelves.